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Why are there so many Proof of Concepts (POCs)?

Jonathan Kirk
25 Mar 2022


Firstly, let’s start with some definitions:

POC: A POC is an exercise in which work is focused on determining whether an idea can be turned into a reality. A POC is meant to determine the feasibility of the idea.

POV: So, if a POC is to prove an idea then what is a POV. A POV is to prove the idea has value but what is value? Here we have an example of where a developer and business manager can disagree. A developer may say that value is to have good code and a robust output whereas a business manager would say value is something that affects the overall profit of an organisation. We would say they are both right but to prove the value means the idea needs to have a clear improvement of a key business metric. You need the robust output to test if the business metric can be improved and if the value is realised. Therefore, you do a POV when you know how you want to use what you are going to build. Then you can evaluate if the new process with the new product in was better than the old process or not.

So, to summarise, if the work you are doing has no clear business metric, then it is a POC and a purely academic exercise, can the idea be brought to life. If there is a clear business metric which can be evaluated at the end of the work, then it is a POV.

The Jigsaw Puzzle Analogy

So now we know what a POC is and what a POV is. Are these the first steps to a full implementation or not?
Let’s explore this using an analogy of a jigsaw puzzle. The aim of a POC or POV is to be able to tell what the puzzle is in the shortest time. The POC says put some pieces together and we will be able to tell a few things that are present in the picture without the puzzle being completed. The POV says put some pieces together and put them in the puzzle. A POV, therefore, will not only be able to tell what things are in the puzzle, but how they interact with each other and most likely what the puzzle overall is going to be, but it is still not finished. Only with the full implementation do we see the entire puzzle.

I suppose the two questions you are thinking are:

  1. If a POC does not have any concept of business value, then why do people do them?
  2. If the puzzle needs to be completed at some point why not just start with a full implementation?

The Baker Analogy

The answer to “why to do a POC” lies in the story of the baker. The baker was desperate to find a shop to sell their bread. They went to several shops, but no one was interested, the shops all said they already have bakers, and they don’t need anything else. Until one day, the baker turns up with their best bread. One by one the shops all try this bread and think it is great. The shops all want to sell it but the bread that the baker brought was a bread roll, some shops sell them, and some don’t. The shops then all give their wish lists to the baker and in no time the baker is making all kinds of bread for all the different shops. The moral of the story is it is hard to sell an idea unless you give people a taste for it.

Extending the Jigsaw Puzzle Analogy

The answer to the second question lies in an admission. The puzzle analogy is insufficient to answer the question of why not just complete the puzzle. This is because when you open a puzzle, you already know that all the pieces you need to complete the puzzle, are in front of you. Now let’s extend the analogy to 10 puzzles. If you have 10 puzzles, trying to complete all of them entirely is difficult and if the aim is to complete only one then trying to complete all 10 may not be a good use of time. You could end up spending a lot of time completing a puzzle which is not the one you really wanted. But if you know the puzzle you want has a house in it then maybe you could do a few POVs and see if the houses you build fit into the puzzle you want to complete.


So, if you have done a POC, do you do a POV next? It is common that after a POC something like a pilot will be done. This is an extension of the POC to test the business value and adds a bit more onto the POC but this time with the business buy in because they can see what you have done in the POC. To summarise, I’ll leave you with a simple flow chart for how to choose a POC, POV or full implementation.

References / Literature

About the author

Jonathan Kirk
Data Scientist, Capgemini Insights & Data

Jonathan is a Data Scientist in the Insights & Data practice in Norway. He studied Biology at the University of Nottingham, specialising in Behavioural Ecology before taking up a career in data science. He has over six years’ experience in both the public and private sector in Norway and the UK. He has delivered solutions to solve key business problems using both well-known and bespoke statistical and machine learning techniques.